Thursday, May 16, 2013

History of Ancient Sparta

Sparta is a city in Laconia, on the Peloponnese in Greece. In antiquity, it was a powerful city-state with a famous martial tradition. Ancient writers sometimes referred to it as Lacedaemon and its people as Lacedaemonians.

Sparta reached the height of its power in 404 B.C. after its victory against Athens in the second Peloponnesian war. When it was in its prime, Sparta had no city walls; its inhabitants, it seems, preferred to defend it with men rather than mortar. However, within a few decades, after a defeat against the Thebans at the Battle of Leuctra, the city found itself reduced to a “second-rate power,” a status from which it never recovered.

The prowess and fearlessness of Sparta's warriors has inspired the Western world for millennia and, even in the 21st century, has been incorporated into Hollywood films like "300" and the futuristic video game series "Halo" (where a group of super- soldiers are called “Spartans”).

Yet the real-life story of the city is more complicated than popular mythology makes it out to be. The task of sorting out what is real about the Spartans from what is myth has been made more difficult because many of the ancient accounts were written by non-Spartans. As such, they need to be taken with the appropriate grain of salt.

Spartan ruins

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